Victoria University of Wellington vice-chancellor, Grant Guilford, revealed that institutions were mulling using charter flights to bring students safely to the city.
“The university, alongside other educational institutions, is working with all the appropriate health and immigration authorities to define the quarantine process required to bring students into Wellington safely,” he said.
“New Zealand’s handling of the outbreak will make it an even more attractive place for students from other countries”
“We are investigating the possibility of chartering an aircraft to make the experience as simple as possible for students. Whether this idea gets lift-off depends on a range of factors.”
Plans would ensure that students have access to accommodation during compulsory quarantine periods, as well as be subject to public health requirements, to manage Covid-19 risks.
In May, the minister of education indicated international students might be able to arrive, provided they stay in quarantine for two weeks.
The joint proposal from Australian Chamber Tourism, Canberra Airport, Wellington Chamber of Commerce, Canberra Business Chamber and Auckland Business Chamber, could begin with a “symbolic pilot flight” as soon as July.
While there are concerns that an Australia-New Zealand arrangement may not help international education, “bubbles” with other countries that are doing well could.
The move would “encourage the extension of the aviation networks to other destinations across Australia and New Zealand over time”, Australian Chamber Tourism chair, John Hart noted.
United Nations agency promoting safe and orderly development of international civil aviation ICAO adopted guidelines on June 1 aimed at “restarting the international air transport system and aligning its global recovery”.
New Zealand Initiative chief economist, Eric Crampton, has previously estimated that around $1.5 billion is set to be made if borders are opened to overseas students over six months. Allowing international students into the country is a “pretty obvious move”, he said.
In a statement to The PIE News, Universities New Zealand chief executive, Chris Whelan, said universities are currently working with government agencies to make preparations for the return of international students.
“A range of options are being considered, including planning for the quarantine arrangements that will need to be put in place to ensure the safety of students, staff and the New Zealand public,” he explained.
“The regulatory requirements will need to be carefully worked through before any questions around charter flights or other details can be finalised.”
Regional universities in Australia have also suggested using charter flights to bring international students to campuses.
English schools across New Zealand have also called for certainty over borders, with English New Zealand estimating the number of students at its member schools would fall 85% by September.
“Schools are in a position of having to decide, with the uncertainty over borders, how long they can stay open and at what point they should decide to either hibernate or indeed shut down,” English New Zealand chairman, Wayne Dyer, told NZ Herald.
“We are simply looking for some certainty around the time frames and process so that we can plan appropriately”
“We appreciate that we may not see a full return to open borders for several months. We are simply looking for some certainty around the time frames and process so that we can plan appropriately and prepare for the sector’s revival, even if that is not until 2021,” principal of CCEL College of English, Glenys Bagnall, added.
“New Zealand has portrayed that we do care about people,” senior lecturer at the Eastern Institute of Technology Pii-Tuulia Nikula said in this week’s PIE Chat. Education New Zealand launched a digital campaign to support and connect international students in the country recently.
The New Zealand government also allocated NZ$1 million towards an international student hardship fund.
Fee-paying international students in genuine, temporary financial hardship can receive up to NZ$1,000 from their education providers for living costs or resources such as food parcels.
The New Zealand International Students’ Association described the announcement on as a “win” for international students in the country.
“New Zealand universities are already highly regarded by international students and their families, thanks to the quality of the education they receive here, and the safe and welcoming environment,” Universities New Zealand’s Whelan added.
“We do believe New Zealand’s handling of the outbreak will make it an even more attractive place for students from other countries than it already is, but this is likely to be a longer-term prospect, rather than a short-term one.”
The New Zealand government has said it will make a decision on removing remaining social distancing and group gatherings restrictions in the country on June 8.